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Category: Writing

The Brain is a Funny Thing

brainThe brain is a funny thing – and I’d dare say that writers’ brains are stranger than most.  Usually I’m very good at keeping my projects separated.  Currently, I’m finishing up one and planning on quickly moving on to the next.  Right now, I’m finishing up edits.  My brain is supposed to be in a very analytical place.  Are all the loose threads tied up?  Can I add some foreshadowing here or there?  It’s like finishing up a puzzle, and my brain has been performing well.

Except when it starts to have a mind of its own.

I know what my next book’s about, and I have a very high level story arc in mind.  I’ve tried for several weeks to start breaking down the plot into more definable pieces, but it wouldn’t break.  I’ve written up some character bios.  They’re fine, but I didn’t really feel like I knew the hero or heroine.

Until the past few days.

Suddenly my analytical brain is jumping into the creative phase, which is good.  I stopped pushing and it finally started going there on its own.  It’s been polite and hasn’t interfered with the clean up work for the current work-in-progress.  What’s rude is that it’s doing this at 4:00 in the morning!

Agg!  The past three days in a row, I’ve woken up with scenes in my head.  Don’t ask me why or how.  I don’t know.  But the characters have suddenly found their voices.  The story is starting to flesh out.  It’s awesome.  It’s organic.

And it’s 4:00 AM!

I need to jump into this new project soon so the story will feel free to come to me at more convenient times of the day.  I promise you, book, you will be my main focus very, very soon.

But right now, please.  I need some sleep.

Finding your Groove

I read an article yesterday in an industry magazine that got me a bit riled up.  The article was pretty militant about telling writers how to write.  The theme was that writers must write every day, because it’s their job.  You mustn’t coddle your muse!  It was a one-size-fits-all approach, and I honestly didn’t make it all the way through because I felt like I was getting my butt chewed.

Do I write every day?  No

Do I do something every day that moves my writing forward?  Absolutely

Just because I’m not putting words on paper every day doesn’t mean I’m not working.  I’m a plotter.  If I were to sit down at the keyboard and try to start writing a book without doing my prep work first, I would be dead in the water.  I know.  I’ve tried.  My brain just doesn’t work that way. On top of that, there are all kinds of other things authors need to do this days:  keep up their website, engage in social media, create a marketing plan, work with designers on covers, go to conferences, go to book signings, put together contests, and a hundred other things to keep them in touch with their readers.

So when it comes to writing, each author has to find their own approach.  That’s what they “must” do.  Just because Nora writes every day doesn’t mean that I have to.  Not everybody does their job the same way.  Once I get into my story, I do tend to write every day because the words just need to get out.  But I cringe when someone gives advice to new writers saying that they need to chain themselves to their laptops if they want to be in the business.

If you’re a writer or a plumber or a school teacher or a computer programmer, find what works for you.  Filter through all the chaff of information that’s thrown at you and determine what is helpful and what is harmful.  Once you’ve got it sorted out, jump in with both feet.  Don’t mess around and play spider solitaire.  Don’t judge others who don’t follow the same process as you.  Just find your groove and rock it out.

Plotting as a Puzzle

I’m currently working on edits to an upcoming story.  My editor asked for some changes and as I’m working on this, I can see how I can address some issues by moving scenes around.  It’s like an elaborate puzzle in my head.  Everything has to fit.  How can you move chunks of a story around and have it still make sense?  It’s like taking the puzzle shapes and modifying them a bit to make them fit somewhere else.  I might have to add something here and remove something there, but that’s fun to me.  I consider it a challenge and if it will improve the story, I’m more than willing to go in there to cut and shape and pad.  Usually, the problems are there because the story was out of order in the first place.  Sometimes, scenes don’t fit at all and need to be cut entirely.  That’s when you, the reader, get those extra “deleted scenes” that you love so much.  Perhaps I’ll have some of those when this whole process is through.  It’s a puzzle piece that just doesn’t fit, no matter how much you want it to.

It’s all about perspective.  Sometimes as a writer, you’re looking so closely at each puzzle piece or scene, you forget that the reader is focusing on the story as a whole.  The pieces not only have to fit, they must make that picture as pretty as can be.

Writing erotica

One of the things I’m working on right now is a new erotica novel. You might not think that there’s much difference writing erotica versus erotic romance, but there is. Just like I’m sure there’s a huge difference between writing comedies, thrillers and mysteries. With erotica, the tension starts at a high level and the writer needs to keep it there and work upwards. With romance, you’re allowed more highs and lows and certainly more build-up time. With erotica, you need to get to the good stuff and get there fast.

Unlike some critics think, though, you can’t skip the character development or the plotting, because without those key components even sex gets boring. So it’s a delicate balance, keeping that sexual tension high and adding the meat of the story. On the other hand, there aren’t as many “rules” with erotica. Romance publishers will argue there aren’t rules, but everyone knows there are. With erotica, you’re allowed to push the limits and be more creative not only in the sex scenes, but also in the story lines and even the characters. It’s fun to go to those places, to be daring and challenge your writing capabilities.

It’s a definite change of gears, but one I’ve driven in quite a bit. It’s just been a while. I haven’t written a full-length erotic novel in years, but it’s time to go back to my old stomping grounds. The opportunity has presented itself, and I’m remembering how much fun it can be to write in this genre. Hopefully, you’ll be able to read the results soon. Then you can tell me if I dared and challenged you enough.

2011 — By the Numbers

I’m pretty meticulous about record keeping, especially when it comes to writing.  For many reasons, I keep track of the time I spend in front of the computer.  My records don’t capture all the time I spend plotting or thinking about scenes.  That’s happening most of the time, usually in the back of my head.  Yet the time that I do spend at a keyboard are logged.  I thought you might be interested in the breakdown for 2011.  It was a strange year for writing, but then again, aren’t they all?

Number of projects worked on:  11
Number of projects published or contracted:  4
Number of projects with offers:  2
Average time to write a full-length novel:  244 hrs (In Her Wildest Dreams took the longest ever at 352 hr.)
Average time to write a novella:  104 hrs (Blade of Moonlight took the shortest at 57 hr.   The words were flying fast and furious.)
Average time to write a short story:  57 hrs

I’m not a fast writer, but I don’t consider myself the slowest.  Things can move at a rapid clip if I’ve got a clear picture in my mind of where the story needs to go.  Without pictures, though, there are no words.  I don’t know how pantsers do it.  I need a plot before anything will go onto paper.  I refuse to sit frozen in front of a keyboard.

So what’s upcoming for 2012?  Hopefully those two offers will turn into contracts pretty soon, and I’ll be able to tell you about them.  I have a proposal that I’m mulling over in my head, and am working on a few surprises.  Hopefully all those plots will clear up in my head soon and those average times will go down!


Writing Season

Wow, it’s been over a month since I posted.  Sorry about that, but it’s getting into that busy time of the year.  Life gets crazy over the holidays.  Everyone is dashing to and fro.  For me, though, it’s also the time of the year when I’m most productive with my writing.  When the weather gets cold and nasty, it’s easier to stay inside and huddle in front of a computer.

As a result, I’m juggling several projects.  The finishing touches have been placed on Blade of Moonlight, which is currently set for a May release with Samhain.  I can’t wait to show you the cover that’s in development.  Can. Not. Wait.  It’s a super dark and super sexy story, which is only appropriate for superheroes, and the cover is super hot.  Naturally.

I’m working on some proposals and finishing up a New Year’s story, which I plan to self-publish in the next few weeks.  That one’s a short story I wrote just as a holiday treat for readers, because I know this is also the time of year people like to curl up on their sofas with hot cocoa and a book.  “Tis the season!

Mission Accomplished

I dove into a full-fledged writing frenzy this week and I’m happy to report I finished the novella.  Words were just spilling out of me, and my fingers were flying.  I really love the story, which is in a genre I’ve never tried writing before.  It’s still an erotic romance, but set in a different type of world.  I don’t want to give too much away.  The publisher has posted that they’ll be sending out responses by October 1.  I’ll let you know!

Double Duty — NOT

Remember how back in May I bragged about working on two stories at one time?  With June stinking and all, it didn’t turn out so well.  I got knocked off course, but I just discovered that I haven’t missed the deadline for the novella.  Unfortunately, it’s only five days away.  I’ve got about 23,000 words left to write to make the minimum word count.  Ha!  So do I let the idea go or do I kick it into high gear and try to get something submitted?

Of course, I’m doing the crazy thing and am trying to write like a mad woman.  Normally, I don’t write fast.  In this case, I do have the story line pretty fleshed out in my head.  (Fleshed out!  Ha.  Unintentional pun.  I do write erotic romance, after all.)  I consider this a challenge, so we’ll have to see how far I get.  Sometimes it’s good to change up your writing routine.

That’s what I said before when I tried writing two things at once and look how that turned out.  Ha!  Still, it’s what I want to do for at least today and I’m in a weird enough mood.  So here I go…  Ready, set, write!

Double Duty

I’m doing something I haven’t tried before – working on two stories at one time.  I’ve been having trouble gathering steam on the main story I’m writing, which is a full-length novel.  Meanwhile, a novella has been sitting in the back of my head, calling to me.  The idea was sparked by a call for proposals, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.  It’s not something I would normally write, but the idea has grown into a well-rounded concept (to the jeopardy of my WIP).  The question is… can I work on two things at once and produce anything decent?

I think the answer might be yes.  Working on the novella has started the word flow again.  Those words were not coming easily on the novel – until they started to bubble up for the shorter story.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of popping that cork.

But how do I keep the stories straight?   Easy.  They’re totally different stories, with different characters and motivations.  If you hop back and forth watching Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi, you’re totally going to know where you are in each story and whether you’re watching Indiana Jones or Han Solo (regardless if they’re both played by Harrison Ford.)

My real concern is time.  When you’re working on two things instead of concentrating on one, they’re both going to take longer to finish.  Since the full-length novel is the second in a series, this is concerning to me.  I guess it’s a matter of sitting and staring at a blank screen or getting words out of my fingertips.  I’ll take the words anyday.

So how about you?  Have you ever taken on two projects at once?  Did they help one another or did they overwhelm you?  I’m hoping I haven’t jumped into the deep end here…

Tic Toc

I’ve been asked several times recently by readers when I’ll have new material coming out. The truth of the matter is that I don’t know. One of the toughest parts of being a writer is being patient while being in the dark. I know how quickly I write, and it’s not that fast. I’m picky and obsessive, and I can’t stop editing until the story reads right and generates the emotion I want. But while I’m writing, I have control. I know how fast I produce material and I know where I am in the process. That control vanishes once I send off that manuscript to others.

It’s at this point that time can slow to a crawl. Writers are busy people, but so are agents and editors. They need time to do their thing, and they receive a lot of queries, partials, and full manuscripts. I’m just one cog in the big wheel that turns ever so slowly… Of course, having a writer’s mind doesn’t help. With no visibility, I don’t know if my material is being discussed excitedly, still on the bottom of the pile, or has slipped behind a desk with dust bunnies and lost pens.

In the end, the only thing left to do is keep writing and sending out more material – which I can report I am doing! Yet in the back of my mind, I’m aware that the clock keeps ticking away and time keeps slipping by. They say that the best things come to those who wait and who work hard. I’m doing both, so hopefully I’ll soon have something new to report – and you’ll have something new to read!